Sunday 9 December 2018

Waterkeepers Chesapeake 2018 Year-End Reflections Featured

Recent years at Waterkeepers Chesapeake have been marked by pronounced growth in our organization and our capacity to protect clean water in the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays regions. Waterkeepers Chesapeake has been working hard to magnify the impact of each member organization to reduce pollution by focusing on long-term systemic change, organizing collective legal and advocacy campaigns, coordinating information and resources, and amplifying the voices of our Waterkeepers. Now Waterkeepers have more influence in the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays restoration efforts than ever.

Please explore some of what you have helped us achieve with your support and participation!

Passage of Groundbreaking Laws & Policies that Protect Water -

Voice for Water Quality -

  • Commented on key state and federal policies that affect local water quality
  • Watchdogged polluter-facilities that fall under state permits
  • Submitted Public Information Act requests based on water quality enforcement concerns

Built Powerful Movements –

  • Through our Fair Farms work, we have been able to utilize our relationship with farmers and our consumer base to garnish public support for food systems policies that also improve the health of our waterways. The Fair Farms campaign now has over 37,000 activated consumers and 178 partners!
  • Waterkeepers Chesapeake helped launch the Don’t Frack Maryland Coalition in 2015 to push for a long-term moratorium on fracking in Maryland. A two-year moratorium on fracking passed in 2015, and Don’t Frack Maryland continued on and called for a statewide ban. In March 2017, a statewide fracking ban passed, the result of a massive grassroots movement across Maryland, especially in Western Maryland, that demanded the legislature protect their families, livelihoods, and clean water and air from the irreversible damage caused by fracking.

Support to Member Waterkeepers -

  • Provided legal and communications support in our fight against the fracked gas Potomac Pipeline
  • Intervened in federal action to ensure that Conowingo Dam owner pays fair share of Susquehanna River cleanup efforts
  • Held various trainings and presentations on legal and policy advocacy

CLICK HERE to read more on our Waterkeepers Chesapeake work and impact.

Regulator has missed Safe Drinking Water Act deadlines for toxic and carcinogenic contaminants

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Waterkeeper Alliance, Waterkeepers Chesapeake, and California Coastkeeper Alliance today notified the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of their intent to sue the agency under the Safe Drinking Water Act because EPA has missed Safe Drinking Water Act deadlines for reviewing and regulating drinking water contaminants, including tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, hexavalent chromium, and others. The environmental groups are represented in this matter by Reed W. Super, Esq. of Super Law Group, LLC.

EPA’s mandatory obligations under the Safe Drinking Water Act include identifying unregulated contaminants for monitoring and/or regulation, regulating those contaminants, and reviewing and revising existing drinking water regulations, all according to a specific timetable mandated by Congress. If EPA does not perform its mandatory obligations, we plan to file suit in early 2019.

The mandatory duties the groups intend to enforce in the upcoming lawsuit involve particular contaminants:

  • Chromium (including hexavalent chromium, the chemical best known from the movie “Erin Brockovich”) was regulated in 1991, with an enforceable limit of 100 parts per billion, based on the assumption that it was noncarcinogenic through oral exposure even though it is known to cause cancer when inhaled. Since then, the National Toxicology Program found “clear evidence of carcinogenic activity” when hexavalent chromium is ingested in drinking water. California set a goal of 0.2 parts per billion and an enforceable limit of 10 parts per billion. EPA has been studying it for many years but has not begun to revise it, or complete its review, well past the deadline for doing so.
  • Tetrachloroethylene (“PERC”), trichloroethylene (“TCE”), chlorite, cryptosporidium, haloacetic acids, heterotrophic bacteria, Giardia lamblia, Legionella, total trihalomethanes, and viruses. In 2010, EPA said the existing regulations for the solvents tetrachloroethylene (PERC) and trichloroethylene (TCE) should be revised to be more protective of human health. In 2017, EPA reached the same conclusion for the other eight contaminants listed here. But EPA has done nothing to develop revised regulations.

EPA also has a mandatory obligation under the Safe Drinking Water Act to make final regulatory determinations with respect to at least five contaminants published on the Candidate Contaminant List every five years. The fourth regulatory determinations were due by August 6, 2016.

EPA failed to publish by the February 6, 2018 deadline the fifth Candidate Contaminant List, which is the list of contaminants that are not subject to any proposed or promulgated National Primary Drinking Water Regulation, but are known or anticipated to occur in public water systems and may require regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. This is also due every five years.

“EPA has a clear legal obligation to monitor and regulate contaminants, including carcinogens, in our drinking water. It is not optional,” said Marc Yaggi, Waterkeeper Alliance’s Executive Director. “There is too much at stake for these waiting games to continue. If the agency continues to drag its feet, refusing to protect the public from harmful chemicals, we will sue to force it to do so.”

"The public puts its trust in government to ensure our drinking water is safe,” said Betsy Nicholas, Waterkeeper Chesapeake’s Executive Director. “Right now, that trust is broken because EPA is not fulfilling its obligation to monitor dangerous drinking water contaminants. It's a sad necessity that we must force the agency's hand to fulfill its most basic obligation to the people."

“The EPA’s job is to protect human health and the environment, and every month that the agency fails to set limits on chemicals used in dry-cleaning fluid, degreasers, refrigerants and other toxic substances that are detected in our drinking water is another month that Californians are put at risk for cancer, liver disease, and other illnesses,” said Sean Bothwell, California Coastkeeper Alliance’s  Executive Director. “At a time when California must do more to provide safe and affordable drinking water, California Coastkeeper Alliance is joining this lawsuit with the hope that the revised national standards will compel California to take bold action.”


Maia Raposo, Waterkeeper Alliance, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (212) 747-0622

Sean Bothwell, California Coastkeeper Alliance, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (949) 291-3401

Betsy Nicholas, Waterkeepers Chesapeake, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (202) 423-0504



Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Rubberstamps Another Pipeline, Ignoring Science and Local Opposition

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on July 19, 2018, approved TransCanada’s application to build a new natural gas pipeline that would carry fracked gas from Pennsylvania across Western Maryland to West Virginia, passing under the Potomac River. Three out of five FERC Commissioners voted to approve the pipeline, with a fourth concurring but disagreeing with FERC’s decision to ignore climate change impacts of expanding fracked gas infrastructure in its decision. In a strong dissent, Commissioner Glick , the fifth vote, passionately disagreed with his colleagues, calling them out for ignoring the impacts of burning natural gas, and stating that “Climate change poses an existential threat to our security, economy, environment, and, ultimately, the health of individual citizens.”

The Potomac pipeline has faced widespread public opposition in local communities along its route, and numerous public officials and municipalities voiced concerns and opposition, including County Commissions and Councils from Washing- ton, Frederick, Montgomery, Prince George’s and Carroll Counties and the City Councils of Hagerstown, Boonsboro, Sharpsburg, Frederick, and Washington, DC.

For over a year, we have joined our No Potomac Pipeline coalition partners in voicing our concerns to State and Federal authorities over the serious threats this pipeline has on the Potomac River, the drinking water for 6 million people. There has been a pattern of reluctance from those authorities to hear our concerns and to fully assess this pipeline project in its entirety.

A request for rehearing was filed on August 17, 2018, that argues:

  • FERC failed in its environmental review to assess properly the climate change impacts of burning the natural gas transported by this pipeline, as well as the future expansion of fracked gas ex-traction in Pennsylvania that would be facilitated by more pipeline infrastructure.
  • FERC failed to fully examine alternatives, including use of renewable energy to meet any energy needs and alternative routes, including one that would entirely avoid a crossing under the Potomac River.
  • FERC failed to verify TransCanada’s claims that the pipeline was needed to supply gas to West Virginia.
  • FERC failed to consider the construction or climate change impacts of the 23 mile Mountaineer Gas pipeline project in West Virginia, despite the fact that the two pipelines are entirely dependent on each other. Mountaineer depends on its connection with the Potomac pipeline for its gas supply, and the only reason to build the Potomac pipeline is to supply gas to Mountaineer.

A rehearing request is the first step in appealing a FERC ruling. The pipeline project still has not received permission from the National Park Service to cross the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, nor has it received an easement from the state to cross the Western Maryland Rail Trail.

It is unfortunate that FERC continues to disregard the threats to our environment from pipeline companies like TransCanada, rather than assess the true costs and recognize the impacts to our citizens and neighbors. Our earlier comments show in detail that FERC has failed its duty to prepare its environmental assessment in accordance with law, and with common sense. Instead, they continue to rubberstamp natural gas projects like this one.

Read more about the No Potomac Pipeline Campaign. Follow campaign on Facebook. Read Upper Potomac Riverkeeper's statement on FERC approval.


Groups Want Rehearing on Permit for Pipeline Under the Potomac River, Herald Mail Media, August 17, 2018

Waterkeepers Chesapeake Staff Attorney Katlyn Schmitt interview (below) with The Real News Network, August 22, 2018